An impressive run to near-victory at Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend, rather than being a one-off, could be a sign that the performance of AC Motorsport’s Audi RS 3 LMS has taken a significant step forward.
AC Motorsport’s Stéphane Perrin believes the Belgian team has taken a notable “step forward in performance” following its commanding run at last weekend’s Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD.
Perrin and AC Motorsport teammates Mathieu Detry and David Dermont led the TCE division almost unchallenged for 10 of the 12 hours at Circuit Paul Ricard having making an electric start from the front row of the grid. Unfortunately, after pulling two laps clear of the pursuing Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing Volkswagens, the #188 Audi RS 3 LMS was forced to pit when series newcomer Dermont felt a vibration just four laps into his second stint. The cause, a broken bearing in the left rear wheel hub assembly, ended up dropping AC Motorsport four laps behind the eventual TCE race winner, though the Belgian team did manage to stave off Spain’s Tictap Totcar Sport to take the final spot on the Overall TCE podium.
The result means AC Motorsport is now one point behind reigning series champion Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing in the Overall TCE Teams’ standings heading into the next round at the Hockenheimring on 22-23 May.
Even in spite of this late-race malady though, team stalwart Stéphane Perrin believes AC Motorsport more than proved itself at Paul Ricard, a notable statement of intent for the remainder of the 24H SERIES season and the Overall TCE Teams’ title standings in particular.
"We have clearly taken a step forward in performance and in the set-up of our Audi RS 3 LMS TCR," Perrin explains. “As a result, we quickly [pulled ahead of] the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR Autorama Motorsport [by] one lap before doing the same with the all-new Cupra TCR, which had an advantageous Balance of Performance. Then we ended up two laps ahead of the whole field, and there was nothing left to do but finish the job.
“We had ticked Paul Ricard among the tracks on which we had to score, and our competitors were able to realize that nothing had been left to chance within the AC Motorsport team. They now know what to expect next, and so do we! It is obviously very frustrating not to take victory after dominating a race like this, but with Autorama Motorsport’s small [lead] in the championship, the situation is far from over. As expected, we are witnessing a crossover at the top of the standings, and we are determined not to give up until the end."
Buoyed by AC Motorsport’s performance at Paul Ricard, newcomer Dermont, who made his first competitive start aboard a TCR car in five years at Paul Ricard last weekend, is already in discussions to compete with the Belgian team at further 24H SERIES events this year.
“I was seduced by what I saw this weekend,” Dermont explains. “[Team principal] Arnaud Quédé and his people are super motivated and they do things very well, all in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. As for Mathieu Detry and Stéphane Perrin, their speed is clear. This competition is quite a change from a few others I have experienced in the past. I have started discussions with Arnaud and Stéphane and I think we'll see me again behind the wheel of the #188 Audi again this year.”
- Images – Petr Frýba